It was tough to pull myself away from my lounge chair by the pool and put down my book, go take a shower, get dressed, and hit the streets of Puerto Vallarta in search of dinner, but somehow I managed.
As the evening light faded to a soft purple, we strolled up the Avenida Mexico to a corner where several taco stands clustered together, glowing like a golden oasis in the dark street. Locals lined up for the tacos, and sat on plastic stools to eat. The smell of grilled meat wafted toward us as we approached the stand with the biggest crowd, where tacos were going for nine pesos—or about seventy-five cents US.
The tacos were delicious. Sizzling hot flavorful grilled meat, a few simple toppings including shredded cabbage, beans, and salsa, and that was it. Messy, drippy, and perfect. I sat on a plastic lawn chair balancing a Styrofoam plate of tacos on my lap, listening to the scrape of meat being turned on the grill and the murmur of Spanish conversation around us in the warm dark night.
Later, after walking around for a while, we were lured in by another store front taco stand–open to the street, with a sign that announced “Tacos 5×35 Pesos”. Light and music spilled out onto the sidewalk, where a line of men sat, quietly eating tacos or just relaxing. Again, the smell lured us in, and we were soon seated in the line of chairs, backs to the noisy late night traffic zooming up the street behind us. Our five tacos were dressed with onions, cilantro, and generous spoonfuls of avocado salsa. A Mirinda orange pop completed the delectable meal.
And somehow, while we sat eating street food we became magically immune, just for the moment, to the constant barrage of attention we received as Americans in Puerto Vallarta. Nobody tried to sell us a tour or lure us into a restaurant, no one offered us weed or a taxi. No (adorable but persistent) little girls or old ladies broke my heart trying to sell us bracelets or cakes as they did in the beautiful restaurants on the beach. Bathed in the glow of a taco stand, we were able to fade into the crowd for a few minutes, to sit quietly with our tacos and each other as just two more people in a line of grubby plastic chairs on the curb of a dusty street after dark, and just be.
That was a moment to savor, and to remember.